Because electricity is an important aspect of our everyday lives, the conductors that are used to carry the energy in places like our homes and businesses need to be in top condition. It’s important to note the different types of conductors, and what each does best; for this reason, we will explore and compare each option available.
Copper Electrical Wire
Most homes, offices, factories and machines depend on good copper wire for transferring electricity. There are many reasons for this – it is a good conductor, it is easy to mold and bend, it isn’t hard to find, and the price is ideal for many applications.
Copper wiring allows for less insulation and narrower conduits than that of aluminum. Why is this? Aluminum has lower conductivity and needs to be larger in diameter than that of copper in order to carry the same amount of current. Because of this, more copper conductors can fit into a given conduit when compared to that of aluminum. Copper also conducts electricity more efficiently so the connections and terminations of the copper wire do not overheat as easily as aluminum.
Copper can be soldered easily and it is easier for most conductors to be used to transmit power loads because it has one of the highest electrical conductivity rates among metals. Smaller conductors are easier to transport and install, which can translate to reduced overall wiring costs. Copper also doesn’t experience the same expansion and contraction to that of aluminum, making it more stable of a material.
However, copper is less abundant and heavier than aluminum, these drawbacks can make the wire purchase more expensive and installation process more difficult.
Aluminum Electrical Wire
Aluminum wire is lighter and easier to work with, making it easier to shape and bend than copper, and often making the job less rigorous. It can reduce corona, which is an electrical discharge associated with high power transmissions. Due to the abundance of aluminum its biggest draw is its affordability; drastically reducing the overall conductor costs for a given project.
On the other hand, it is a less conductive metal than copper, so an aluminum wire that is meant to carry the same amount of electricity as a copper wire needs to be bigger in diameter, and thus require a wider conduit in many cases – adding to the overall project cost.
If not installed correctly, aluminum wiring can raise the risk of hazardous and potentially life threatening conditions. Aluminum wire expands when it gets warmer, and when it cools it contracts. Loose or improperly terminated connections can result in serious injury or death. As with all types of wire and electrical installations, follow your local electrical code and contact your inspector with any questions.
The appropriate wiring to use for any project depends on several factors, including application for use as well as budget. Whichever you choose, Steiner has the inventory to get your job completed! If you would like to know more about all of the wire options and services available at Steiner, please call us at 1-800-STEINER (783-4637) or stop by any of our nine convenient locations to learn more.